The “New” Budget Consumer

The current economic landscape has placed a special spotlight on the Budget Consumer and their food purchases. Over the past two years, Canada’s steep inflationary growth has shifted shopping habits, with higher food and drink prices raising concern. Even though food inflation has started to moderate, shoppers are continuing to feel the impact of heightened food costs.

While individual financial well-being will dictate consumer behavior, general trips to the grocery store have become more strategic with the focus on making the most of their budgets. On average, Canadian consumers are making 7.2 grocery trips per month – this is almost 2 trips less than when surveyed in 2018. This indicates that consumers are most likely only buying what they need when they need it, as well as visiting multiple stores to complete their monthly shop.

Consumers continue to be motivated by promotions with 49% of purchases being sold on promotion – this is an 11% increase from the prior year. Fresh categories, such as produce and meat products tend to be the most sought after on deal, with 2/3 of consumers purchasing on promo. 2  It’s no coincidence that these fresh categories are also perceived as having risen the most in price. 3

Consumers are also embracing discount channels and mass merchandisers. Discount shoppers report that they are buying 38% more of their groceries within this channel versus the prior year.[4] Additionally, in the past year, 62% of consumers have opted to switch primary grocery stores to secure better deals. 5

Interestingly, a factor that could contribute to the permanence of this channel shift is consumers’ perceived value. Typically, value is translated into discount and promotions, and while this continues to be important, there is a broader definition coming into play with 85% of consumers agreeing that value is more than just about offering the cheapest price. 6 Many brands tout attributes related to taste, wellness, and quality that effectively justify price tiers. It will be key for grocers and brands alike to communicate these differentiations clearly and effectively.

And not to forget the long-forged trend of permissible indulgence. More than ever before the definition of luxury will remain subjective and open to interpretation. No matter what the pricing concerns of the day are, every shopper will have a different set of priorities that will drive their purchases. “A little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt,” Charles M. Schulz once contemplated; although he likely didn’t envision the financial situation many consumers now face.

[1] Dalhousie University, Agri-food Analytics Lab, Canada’s Food Price Report, 14th Ed., 2024

[2] Nielsen IQ MarketTrack, Canada, All Channels, 52wks Dec 30 2023

[3] Mintel Canada, The Budget Food and Drink Consumer, 2024

[4] Mintel Canada, The Budget Food and Drink Consumer, 2024

[5] Dalhousie University, Agri-food Analytics Lab, Canada’s Food Price Report, 14th Ed., 2024

[6] Mintel Canada, The Budget Food and Drink Consumer, 2024

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Canadian trends//December 6, 2023

In the past four years the grocery industry has seen seismic shifts to supply chains, transportation channels, and economic uncertainty that has evolved consumer behaviour and ultimately the retail landscape.

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